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The Ports

Thursday, February 23, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Here’s the Steyn review of Robert Ferrigno’s Prayers for the Assissin.

Steyn, Ferrigno, Austin Bay and Jack Kelly all support the Port deal with Dubai World Ports. I don’t. At least not yet. And until even folks like these that I very much respect or the Adminsitration that I support address the security questions, I won’t.

Conservatives are split, but not Congressmen and Senators, who have forced a pause in the process. While there are undoubtedly some who are exploiting the public’s reaction for political gain, and some critics who are jingoists and “bring on the clash of civilizations” types who don’t want any commerce with the Muslim world, that’s obviously not the responsible critique of the deal.

The responsible critique is that penetration of this company by Islamists intending massive casualties and damage to the U.S. on its own soil is easier that penetration of other foreign companies operating ports in the U.S., specifically the current British operator.

That’s not an arguable proposition: Arab-owned and Middle Eastern-based companies are easier to penetrate by Arab terrorists than British companies are.

That doesn’t mean that British companies can’t be penetrated. of course they can. So can American companies.

But the transfer of operations to Dubai World Ports means an increase in the vulnerability of the operations of the six ports.

Frank Gaffney and others –especially those schooled in the rough and tumble intelligence days of the Cold War– understand influence operations and penetration operations. They also refuse the bigotry of soft expectations vis-a-vis our Islamist enemies. The al Qaeda branch offices around the world may not have Stasi-like numbers or money, but they have technology of the sort that none of our adversaries have ever had. (See Lawrence Wright’s “the Terror Web” from the July 26, 2004 New Yorker.)

The quality of the company’s port operations in Dubai or anywhere else around the world is not being questioned –it is undeniably very good– or the need to see the Arab world embrace modernity, or the absolute truth that we need to honor and support our allies in the Arab world. For those reasons I have spent a lot of the past few weeks counseling against the republication of the Danish cartoons as an unnecessary affront to Muslims who may not only be on our side in the GWOT, but who may also be U.S. citizens and U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

But it seems that the simple fact remains that is it is harder for this company to defend this company against penetration than, say, an Australian company, because of the country and the culture in which it is located.

The best argument for the deal at this point hasn’t been made: Dubai World Ports can be tougher in its background and security operations than the brisih company or even American companies because they don’t have the same sort of employee protection laws as Western companies. This is a variant of the “rendition brings results” argument the left asserts with regularity.

That argument hasn’t been made, but when it is, I’ll listen. In fact I’ll listen to any argument that begins with the undeniable —undeniable but not acknowledged— concession that a change in ownership means a change in the security situation at the six ports.

Arguments that don’t begin there aren’t arguments addressed to the objection driving the opposition, and thus aren’t going to be effective.


UPDATE:

Question: Are Arab Robert Hanssens even possible? Did the review committee ask such questions? Can we see the minutes of those meetings?

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